Sunday 12 January 2014

Ise Bay

To say I had an over-night drive to Mie this weekend is rather misleading, it's possible to do it in a couple of hours when the roads are quiet. Friday night I drove as slowly as I could, mostly within Japan's incredibly low speed limits, then slept in a convenience store car park between Tsu and Matsusaka cities before positioning myself at the mouth of the Kumozu River just before the 07:01 sunrise. Low tide was at about 08:00 so I had a rising tide most of the day keeping anticipation peaked.

I saw a few Sika Deer on the drive across but the real frustration was almost seeing a Ural Owl. As I came out of a tunnel through a mountain top something leaving a roadside post just caught my eye. Seeing road-crossing owls is common place in the UK, and everywhere else in my experience, but not in Japan. Where are all the owls here? A chance encounter with one is a major event. If I hadn't had so much time to kill I would have considered starting the day in the mountains for woodland species before heading down to the coast. But, I can see woodland species around Kyoto and Ise bay has a strong gravitational pull.

The birding was very good, close as it is to Kyoto there are a lot of birds in Ise Bay I don't usually see elsewhere in Kansai. In fact there was so many birds along the coast I didn't have time to trawl the fields, let alone do some forest birding in the way back. This is the nearest birding place to home that guarantees things like Sauder's Gull, Common Shelduck, Brent Goose and Oystercatcher.

First winter Saunder's.

First winter Saunder's.

Adult Saunder's.

Oystercatcher's are usually too far out on the flats or roosting on off-shore rocks to get photographs.

I only saw two birders all day which is actually the closest I came to a rarity. One of them asked if I knew where the Hooded Crane was. As there's a several-kilometre-wide strip of arable land between the coast and the mountains not trawling the fields probably isn't the reason I didn't connect with it. Hooded is the only crane likely to turn up in kansai but records are few and far between. On a previous visit one winter I was asked where the Red-billed Starling was. For me this is a great go-on-spec area and I don't get to hear of a number of birds that occur. Spoonbilled Sandpiper springs to mind.

There were huge rafts of ducks on the sea, usually dabblers closer to shore and Greater Scaup further out and large flocks of Dunlin out on the sandflats. Towards high-tide Dunlin, Sanderling and Kentish Plover were pushed onto the beach giving great views.

Sanderling still with juvenile tertials.

Two birds in heavy moult.

Sleepy looking adult winter, maybe that's why it got its feet wet.

Monster bill Dunlin.

The only bird I noticed with black on the underparts.

One of the surprising things was the lack of birds of prey, the area is good for falcons, accipiters and Eastern Marsh Harrier and I usually see two or three birds. The Eastern Buzzard I did see was at dusk on the return journey, otherwise there was only the expected Osprey and Black Kite. The other notable absentee was Black-tailed Gull.

Green Pheasant   1
Brent Goose   13
Common Shelduck   6
Gadwall   common on sea and ponds
Falcated Duck   numerous on sea
Eurasian Wigeon   huge numbers
Mallard   large numbers mostly on estuaries
Eastern Spot-billed Duck   common on fresh water
Northern Shoveler   30 on small ponds
Northern Pintail   some large flocks but not present everywhere
Eurasian Teal   common on ponds, a few on sea
Common Pochard   common on sea and ponds
Tufted Duck   lowish numbers on rivers and ponds
Greater Scaup   large rafts off-shore
Common Goldeneye   50+
Red-breasted Merganser   7
Little Grebe   several on ponds and rivers
Great Crested Grebe   5-10
Black-necked Grebe   1
Grey Heron   common
Great White Egret   1
Little Egret   8-10
Great Cormorant   huge numbers
Osprey   5-6
Black Kite   several
Eastern Buzzard   1
Common Coot   fairly common
Oystercatcher   16
Northern Lapwing   1
Grey-headed Lapwing   2
Grey Plover   50+
Kentish Plover   commonly dotted along the beaches
Lesser Sand Plover   2
Greenshank   2
Wood Sandpiper   1 possibly the first I've seen in Kansai in winter
Common Sandpiper   6-8
Sanderling   c100
Dunlin   1000-1500
Common Gull   100+
Vega Gull   300-400
Slaty-backed Gull   5
"Heuglin's Gull"   one bird looked pretty good for taimyrensis 2-3 others were closer to Vega
Black-headed Gull   common on estuaries
Saunder's Gull   15-20
Feral Rock Dove   a few flocks
Oriental Turtle Dove   fairly common
Ural Owl   1 almost certainly this species flew from a post in the periphery of the headlights
Common Kingfisher   2
Bull-headed Shrike   3-4
Rook   55-80 in two flocks
Carrion Crow   widespread
Large-billed Crow   widespread
Skylark   1 heard
Brown-eared Bulbul   common
White-cheeked Starling   common
Dusky Thrush 4-5
Daurian Redstart   3
Blue Rock Thrush   2
Eurasian Tree Sparrow   common
White Wagtail   fairly common
Japanese Wagtail   3-4
Olive-backed Pipit   c10
Buff-bellied Pipit   2
Oriental Greenfinch   common
Meadow Bunting   6-8 mainly heard
Black-faced Bunting   1 heard
Reed Bunting   2

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